How to Lead and How Not to Lead – Part of a periodic series

So let’s start with the how not to lead. 

In order for your people to follow you they will need to trust you. Trust is a two-way street so if you’re wondering how NOT to lead the first step is to demonstrate that you absolutely do not, under any circumstances, trust your people. They will find it impossible to trust you when it’s obvious you don’t trust them. You will be responsible for turning their work situation into a nightmare. You can bet your last dollar they will do likewise for you. 

To demonstrate that you do not trust them you’ll want to first convince yourself that no one can do as good a job as you. That will be second nature for too many people in leadership positions but some people will only be convinced of that the first time one of their people makes a mistake. 

Once you’re certain that you do pretty much everything better than anyone else you can move up to delegating tasks to the people likely to screw them up. Be sure to delegate only crap jobs that you don’t like to do. There’s no sense in delegating a task because it may help them grow as team members or people in general. 

Once you’ve assigned them a task be certain to manage every single step in the process required to complete the task. Constant nonstop micro-managing will ensure even your worst team members will turn in good results. As “everyone” knows, people love to be micro-managed so manage the heck out of everything and everyone. 

This method of “leading” will also help eliminate questions in the future. Rather than attempting to accomplish anything on their own and needing a question answered along the way, your people will simply wait and do nothing. That should make for far fewer messes for you to clean up. 

Plus, if you were ever “charged” in a court of law with being a leader there would be absolutely no evidence to convict you. 

But let’s assume for a minute that you’re reading this blog because you actually do want to lead more effectively. 

Let’s see what that would look like. 

First, remind yourself that you don’t know it all. Remind yourself that there may be more than one way to accomplish the same task. Remind yourself that your way may in fact not be the best way. Once you become an experienced Authentic Leader you won’t have to remind yourself of these things anymore. They will have been proven to you again and again. 

Then you can delegate whatever tasks you think will help your people grow. It may be that you’re sure they can handle it or it may be something that will “stretch” the limits of their comfort zones. Either way the goal should be to meet the required objective while helping people grow. It might be easier if you did the job yourself but you know that Authentic Leaders take a longer term view of people development. They realize that the time they use to help people learn a new job or task is an investment, not an expense. 

Now you can turn them lose and give them the autonomy that demonstrates you trust them. You can offer them support, some training or other assistance when required. But if they don’t ask for assistance then allow them to do their thing. If you’ve followed a well defined delegation process they will be fine. You will be fine. Even if they accomplished the task in a different fashion than you would have. If the task was completed ethically, on time, within the budgetary guidelines and the objective was met then your leadership efforts have been successful. 

If for some reason the task wasn’t completed as required then you have the opportunity for additional coaching to improve their results next time. Before you do any coaching you need to determine where the delegation went off the rails. Was it something your team member did or didn’t do? Perhaps it was some detail you forgot to discuss with them? Authentic Leaders never assume the fault is the responsibility of the people they lead. They look first at themselves to determine if and how they might improve as well. 

So there you have it. Are you more on the leading side or the not so much side? If you’re on the “not” side then you have some work to do…but only if you truly want to lead. 

On a different subject… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. 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!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

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.

A Self Fulfilling Prophecy

This is a story about a prosperous, or formerly prosperous, Hot Dog vendor in a major metropolitan city. He began his business with a single Hot Dog stand in the heart of downtown. He was a gregarious fellow who served excellent all beef Hot Dogs with all the fixins’. 

He could talk up a storm and always had something of interest to share with his customers. His customer base expanded over the first couple of years. His profits grew to the point he was able to pay for his son to attend one of the finest universities. 

The dad continued to do well with his Hot Dog business too. So well in fact that he added several additional stands throughout the city along with a handful of employees. All while his son was away at school. By any measure his business was booming. 

His son graduated with a degree in finance and triumphantly returned home. Upon learning of his father’s rapid growth he was shocked and concerned. He told his dad that he was very likely growing his business too fast. He added that the economy was on the cusp of a recession and he needed to downsize to “protect” his business. His business was sure to decline and he would be stuck with overhead and bills he wouldn’t be able to pay. 

The dad was surprised and disturbed by this news. He had no idea about the “mistakes” he had been making. All his bills were paid. He had no debt. His customers and employees were all happy and his profits were continuing to grow. But he had no formal education and his son had a newly minted degree. So he decided to follow his son’s advice. 

He immediately closed one of his stands and as his son had predicted sales began to decline. So he closed a second stand and once again, as his son had predicted sales and profits fell even further. 

Over the course of the year he laid off all of his employees and closed all but his original Hot Dog stand. Sales were once again at the level of years earlier before his son had gone off to school. 

The dad was amazed at how accurate his son’s “predictions” were and thanked him immensely for “saving” his business. 

Now this isn’t a true story but it very well good be. And if you’re not careful it could be your story too. 

As we continue in our turbulent times and approach a recession, or maybe already are in a recession, the “experts” will be out in force. The naysayers and doom makers will have ample “evidence” as to why you can’t succeed. Listen intently, use what you can from their “insights” but always always always decide for yourself. 

You know you better than anyone else. You know what you’re capable of. You know your business. You know your marketplace and your customers. The consultants and experts can add to your knowledge base but they can’t decide for you unless you allow them to. 

Never allow them to. Don’t become so “data driven” that you allow data to take over for your critical thinking skills. There was zero data to indicate any consumer demand for something called an iPod or a touch screen phone. But Steve Jobs went with his gut and moved forward anyway. It seems to have worked out reasonably well. There are still “experts” predicting the imminent death of the iPhone but I’ll bet Apple builds a few more next year anyway.

Good business plans, excellent leadership, sound values, integrity based principles, and undeterred perseverance will always win in the long run. Don’t let anyone who doesn’t truly know you and your business tell you otherwise. 

And never let their “predictions” become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

On a different subject… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. 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!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

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.

The Importance of Recognition 

All leaders understand the importance of giving their people timely and meaningful recognition. But not all leaders demonstrate that they understand that importance. Many fall into the trap called the tyranny of the urgent. They get so busy doing things that appear urgent that they allow the important things to fall into oblivion. 

They pay a steep price for that mistake. Failing to recognize deserving team members leads to higher turnover. Especially these days. Failure to recognize top talent significantly decreases their level of engagement. An organization’s most expensive employees are not the ones who are the highest paid. They are the ones who are least engaged. 

When recognition falls so does employee performance. Especially the performance of an organization’s best people. 

In a recent survey of a cross section of employees from various industries the question was asked, “What is the most important thing that your company or manager does that causes you to produce great work? Employees answered in their own words but a clear pattern emerged. 37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often. That is 3 times the second place answer which was “nothing.”

The survey also showed that recognition makes employees feel that promotions are fair. It spurs innovation and drives extra effort. Recognition is also the single greatest driver of positive company culture. 

None of that comes as a surprise to an experienced leader. But even experienced leaders struggle with their priorities. The urgent things that come with managing a business take priority over the importance of leading people. 

Authentic Leaders put recognizing their people at or very near the top of their daily priority list. They block time to recognize people. Their recognition goes well beyond a simple “nice job.” They can state, with great specificity, how their employee’s effort had a positive impact on the organization. Many times that recognition will also come in the form of a hand-written note. They know that investing a few minutes to jot down their thoughts increases the significance of the recognition ten-fold. 

Being “busy” is absolutely no excuse for failing to provide consistent recognition to the people you lead. In fact, it’s when your organization is at it’s busiest that your people most need recognition. And yes, I said need. Recognition is the fuel that lights their fire of productivity. It fuels their determination to excel.

It’s really this simple…if you want your people to perform at a higher level then you’re gonna need to lead at a higher level.  Giving recognition is a key character trait of a high performing leader. So stop reading and go give a deserving member of your team some recognition RIGHT NOW.

On a different subject… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. 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!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

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.

Negative Stress Has No Benefits

Everyone experiences stress in their lives from time to time. Some of that stress is forced upon them and some of it they create themselves. But no matter where it originates from it is likely not good for them.

I say likely because some stress is actually positive, although it may not feel like it at the time. Some stress pushes you out of your comfort zone and drives you to take action. You would accomplish much less if there were absolutely no stress in your life. 

But the fact is that much of the stress in people’s lives is negative stress. The kind that has zero benefit. The negative stress that is piled on people by bosses, uncontrollable circumstances and the like is the toughest to deal with. But if you can think about the stress in your life with a clear head you may discover that much of the uncontrollable stress in actually controllable. 

When you continuously allow people into your life who do nothing but add stress to it then that’s on you. That’s something you can control. You only have to decide that you will.

Many times people manufacture their own stress. There are a few ways people do that. 

One is they become mind readers. Here’s a typical example. You’re in a big meeting and you see your boss leave the room with his boss. Now there’s only one thing they could be talking about out in that hallway…it must be you. You wonder what you did. You wonder if there’s any chance it’s a conversation about something you’ve done right. But you quickly decide it is not. And presto, just like that you start stressing. The amazing thing is that there are likely other people in the room stressing like you. Stop reading minds because it is highly unlikely you’re any good at it. You’re only manufacturing stress that does you no good.

The second way to manufacture stress out of thin air is to mistake feelings for facts. People, like me for instance, often mistake their feelings for reality. If you want to see how that works just watch a Hallmark movie. At some point, usually with about 20 minutes left there will be a huge misunderstanding and someone’s feelings will be hurt. The person assumes what they feel is based on facts but low and behold, with mere seconds left in the movie it’s all straightened out and two people live happily ever after. 

The problem is life isn’t a Hallmark movie. The misunderstanding often doesn’t get straightened out and the stress we manufacture has huge consequences, sometimes those consequences last a very long time. If you’re not CERTAIN about the FACTS of a situation ask for clarification. Even if you run the risk of looking stupid it’s better than being stupid by creating unnecessary stress in your life. 

And then there’s this…people turn molehills into mountains. That do that by catastrophizing. They turn every little problem into a catastrophe. Every mistake is the end of the world. Every problem becomes an insurmountable obstacle. They are doomed. This kind of manufactured stress increases day by day until the person is paralyzed into inactivity. All this because of what is essentially an over active imagination. 

You can eliminate much of the stress in your life by understanding it’s origins. A whole bunch of it likely is self-created. When you feel that happening the best thing you can do is disconnect from the situation, even if only for a few minutes. Talk a walk, call a friend. Ask for help. Or do what I do, eat some ice cream. You’ll find that to be particularly effective. 

There will be circumstances outside of your control that add stress to your life. Don’t add to it by creating more of your own. 

On a different subject… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. 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!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

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.

Misguided Pride

I think pride gets a bad rap. Pride is good. Parents should be proud of their kids. (Hopefully their kids give them reasons to be proud) Leaders should be proud of the people and teams they lead. It’s great, and even necessary, to take pride in your own efforts. Being proud of what you do and how you do it can promote healthy self-esteem. 

The key word in that previous sentence is “can.”

People begin to notice when you have success. They tell you how good you are. Hearing that you are doing something right, or doing something better than other people, never gets old. But…

When you’re in a leadership position people may start commenting on what a great job you’re doing building the team. That’s nice to hear. But sometimes you’re better off not hearing it and if you do you’re way better off not believing it. 

As an Authentic Leader you have a positive impact on your organization. You may even bring out the best in your people. But you didn’t put the best in them, it was already there. You helped them bring it to the surface. You didn’t give them the potential for greatness, you merely helped them discover it was there all along. 

When someone points out that the team “couldn’t have done it without you” your first, second, and third thoughts should be that you couldn’t have done it without the team. Every Authentic Leader knows full well that their success is completely dependent upon the success of the team and people they lead. 

Authentic Leaders help people succeed in many ways. The key word in that sentence is “help.” The success of the people you lead is theirs, not yours. When you become too proud of their success that you start believing their success actually belongs to you then you immediately begin to lose the opportunity to Authentically Lead. 

Your people stop performing for you. Their engagement level drops. Their commitment level disappears. You lose them. By then it’s often too late to recover, your misguiding pride has led you away from the people you used to lead.

So as a leader go ahead and be proud of the fact that you’ve helped other people, maybe even lots of other people. Celebrate their accomplishments with them but never forget they own their accomplishments, not you. You were and are, merely the guide on their path to success. 

Self-esteem is a vital ingredient for a happy and fulfilled life. Some level of pride is required for self-esteem. Just remember, there is a substantial difference between being proud and being prideful. 

On a different subject… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. 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!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

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.

The Two Absolute Rules for Success

There are two rules that the most successful people do not break. Ever!

The first involves the sharing of information. Too many people, including people in leadership positions, believe that knowing something that no one else knows gives them power over the unknowing people. That’s often not accurate but the reality is that sometimes it’s true. 

You won’t find many leaders who like rumors floating around their organizations. Still some of those leaders withhold information from their people. That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding on where rumors come from. 

Rumors come from a lack of information. People need and want information about the organizations that employ them. When they lack that information it’s like it leaves an empty spot inside of them. If the emptiness persists too long they find information to fill it. Some of that information may be accurate, some may not. Much of it comes from the rumor mill. Rumors cause people to disengage from their organization. Rumors are poison to productivity. Information is the medicine that stops rumors in their tracks. 

Yet still, many supposed leaders do not share information. Information that would help their people remained engaged and productive. 

Effective leaders know that in most cases information doesn’t become truly powerful until it is shared with people who can use it to take action. The action might be to create something new. Improve something that was thought to be working well. Or perhaps change something in a direction previously thought impossible. 

That why I encourage leaders to share as much information with their teams as possible. 

Even understanding the first absolute rule for success, I still encourage leaders to provide their people with as much information as possible. 

So, what is the first absolute rule for success? Here it is…Never tell anyone everything you know. I agree with that rule because there is stuff that each of us know that provides no benefit to anyone else. If it doesn’t help someone then why tell them? 

So, you’re now probably wondering about the second absolute rule for success. Well, I’d love to tell you but the first rule says….

The Trail of an Authentic Leader

I’m sometimes asked how I can tell when someone is an Authentic Leader. People want to know what to look for, what to listen for and what “signs” signify that someone is an Authentic Leader. 

While there are certainly identifiable character traits of Authentic Leadership there is one surefire way to know without a doubt that someone is an Authentic Leader. They leave a trail behind them. The trail is littered with leaders. 

Authentic Leaders invest the time required to develop their people. They begin the process of developing their people with the understanding that people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught. That is particularly true when it comes to leadership. 

Leadership is “modeled” much more than it is taught. That’s why it is so important that leaders always keep in mind that they are the models for successful leadership behaviors. They don’t tell people what to do, they show them. They know that people will do what their leader does 1000 times faster than they will do what their leader says. 

Authentic Leaders grow new leaders through consistency and persistence. They don’t offer drive by coaching. They know that elevating others requires work, patience and a willingness to suffer the occasional setback. Maybe even more than occasional. They don’t coach in their free time, instead they set aside time, often daily, to invest in their people. They don’t provide all the answers for their people, they help their people develop answers on their own. 

One of the reasons Authentic Leaders don’t give all the answers is that they admit they don’t have all the answers to begin with. They are willing to learn from anyone, anytime. They know the best leaders are constant learners. They also are not afraid to admit when they are wrong or have made a mistake. They take ownership of and responsibility for, their actions. 

They also give ownership away to help their people grow. They delegate tasks and the responsibility for getting them done. They allow their people to take ownership of the task. The allow them to make decisions and determine the steps to make to ensure successful completion of the task. 

Authentic Leaders know that the best way to help people learn to make decisions is to let them make decisions. That also means allowing them to clean up the messes they make from a poor decision. 

Authentic Leaders make most every decision with an eye towards the future. The full future. That includes who they will leave behind as leaders when their own time in the top spot comes to a close. 

I ask people in leadership positions who they are currently developing to fill future leadership positions. Many of them tell me they are too busy leading to “spend” time on developing people. That tells me without a doubt that while they may hold a leadership position they most certainly are not an Authentic Leader. 

Authentic Leaders consistently “invest” the time to develop the next generation of leaders and they leave a substantial trail of leaders behind them as a result. 

So…who are you developing today for the leadership roles of tomorrow?