Weak Leaders – Part Three

I think it’s safe to say that most, likely all, successful people accept full responsibility for their actions and decisions. So then do Strong Authentic Leaders. 

Weak leaders tend to play the blame game. They look for someone else to dump responsibility on when things go wrong. Or they make excuses. My favorite is the combo responsibility dump/excuse of miscommunication. The leader communicated well, the person on the receiving end wasn’t bright enough to understand. 

That “combo” covers both bases. The leader has no responsibility for the mistake and the blame is firmly shifted away from the leader, except it really isn’t. 

Just a side note here…Authentic Leaders accept 100% responsibility for all communication. They know it is their responsibility to make certain the other person completely understood what was said. 

Not accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions leads to an entire set of consequences, whether you’re a leader or not. 

The first, and I think the most serious, is an exaggerated sense of self. If you believe your excuses it makes it difficult to build relationships with others. You are seen as less trustworthy. You likely become more critical of other people. Your feelings of infallibility increases your expectations of others. You become unrealistic, intolerant, and demanding. 

Your attitude becomes a repellent to other people making it nearly impossible to lead. You may not realize it at first and weak leaders may never realize it, but you’re not fun to be around. All because you can’t, or won’t, accept responsibility for your actions and decisions. 

The most common reason for not accepting responsibility is a sense of insecurity. People, especially weak leaders think admitting to a mistake or a poor decision makes them look weak. In reality, having the courage to admit mistakes gives the appearance of strength to a leader’s followers. 

Strong Authentic Leaders see accepting responsibility as a measure of their self-worth. Their strength and self-confidence allows them to do something weak leaders can’t do…learn from their mistakes. 

Ask yourself when was the last time you may have fallen short as a leader by placing blame for your actions on someone else. Ask yourself why you did that. Be honest with yourself. That’s the first step in growing your self-confidence to a level where you’re comfortable owning your actions and decisions. 

If you struggle with accepting responsibility then start paying attention to a leader you respect. You’ll likely see them do it on a regular basis. If you want to move from the weak side of leadership to the strong side do what they do. 

You may not see a difference in yourself right away but you’ll see a difference in how people respond to you. They may even start acting as if you’re a leader! 

Weak Leaders – Part Two

Strong Authentic Leaders make decisions. Perhaps surprisingly, so do weak leaders. What separates the two is that strong leaders act an those decisions almost immediately while weaker leaders hesitate…if they act at all.

There are lots of reason they hesitate. The biggest is fear of failure. They somehow get it in their heads that trying and failing is worse than not trying at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. All successful people fail, at least temporarily. The fact that they tried allows them to try again. Again and again, until the failure is behind them.

Not trying at all means that failure, and make no mistake, not trying is a HUGE failure, it means that the failure will always be with you. Never to be left behind. 

The first step in an action plan is often the hardest. Strong Authentic Leaders know that heavy trains often require an extra engine to get started. That’s why they aren’t afraid to ask for a little help to get going. It’s amazing the momentum that can be created with a single step. Unfortunately, weak leaders too often don’t take that step.

Weak leaders often use patience as an excuse for not starting. They are waiting for “just the right time” to begin, perhaps not realizing what they are doing is actually procrastinating. Patience is the acceptance that things can happen in a different order than you had imagined. Procrastination is waiting for the sake of waiting. Patience can provide benefits, procrastination simply kills opportunities for success. Strong Authentic Leaders know the difference. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do the hard jobs first. They know that there are only three options available when facing any challenge, they can delay, dodge or do. Strong leaders do. Weak Leaders do too but they do the easy things first hoping somehow that the hard things will either go away, be handled miraculously by someone else or that no one will notice they were never done at all. 

Weak Leaders are slow to start because they see risk in every opportunity. Strong Authentic Leaders are always moving forward because they see opportunity in every risk. Risk is a requirement for progress. Risk is a part of success. Strong Authentic Leaders are willing to take a risk, a well calculated, considered risk, in order to have a chance to lead. 

If you’re in a leadership position and find yourself hesitating then you need to ask yourself why. Are you risk adverse? Fearing failure? A wee bit too lazy to tackle the challenges of leadership? Or afraid of appearing weak by asking for help?

Well none of those are valid reasons for hesitating, they are excuses. The kind of excuses Strong Authentic Leaders do not make. So instead of making excuses start making decisions and taking action to make things happen. It won’t take long before you wonder why you weren’t doing that all along.

Weak Leaders – Part One

One of the most common characteristics of weak leaders is complaining about a lack of resources. Weak leaders frequently complain about a lack of resources no matter how many resources they have. That tends to make me think it’s more of an excuse rather than an actual issue. 

But even if they truly have a shortage of resources I still see it as more of an excuse than anything else. 

Weak leaders complain about too small a budget. They complain about too few people to get the job done. They complain about lack of time. 

The thing is, those complaints typically don’t limit a weak leader’s ability to complete a job or assignment, they prevent them from even starting. Strong Authentic Leaders do not allow the fact that they can’t do everything they would like to do prevent them from doing everything they can do. 

Authentic leaders who face limited resources prioritize what must get done. They separate the “nice to do” from the “must do” activities and then they develop a plan to get the “must do” things done. No excuses, no delays, no worries, no problem and no complaints.

I was on a call recently where in a 10 minute period of time someone in a leadership position complained at least a dozen times about what they couldn’t do because of a lack of resources. I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked them to please tell us what, if anything, they could do. 

They seem rather stumped. 

If you’re a leader who faces limited resources you simply must stop focusing on what you can’t do. Turn your attention to the things you can do. You must realize that there is a huge difference between no resources and limited resources. If you have people on your team, if you have dollars remaining in your budget then use those along with the 1440 minutes you definitely do have each day to accomplish as much as you possibly can. 

I realize you may not have the budget, people or time to do all that’s expected but you absolutely do have everything you need to do all that you can.

So do that!

Trust is Earned

Every person on this earth is unique. There are lots of common characteristics and similarities but no two people, not even identical twins are exactly the same. When it comes to trust all those unique people seem to fall into just two categories. 

They are either in the “I trust people until they show me they can’t be trusted” category or they are in the “I don’t trust anyone until they prove they can be trusted” category. I‘m sure there are also other people like me who bounce back and forth between the two groups based on some undefinable “feeling.” But most stick to one category or the other. 

Authentic Leaders take both groups into consideration when working to build trust. They intentionally undertake trust building actions on a very regular basis. 

They tell the truth, even uncomfortable truths. This one is fundamental. It seems obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to minimize the importance of this when it’s convenient for us. What about when someone asks if you followed up with that email you totally forgot about? You could lie, say yes, and do it that very moment. Or, you could admit that you forgot but will do it now.

You may be seen as somewhat less reliable but your credibility remains intact. 

They admit what they don’t know. Authentic Leaders value the trust of their people more than anything else. They know that “Followership” requires a commitment and without trust there is no commitment. They don’t try to BS their way to impressing people, they impress them with their honesty and authenticity.

They do what they say they will do…every time. They do not cancel meetings at the last minute, fail to show up, or a miss a deadline. The currency most important to an Authentic Leader is their word. Not doing what you’ve said you would do causes people to instantly wonder if you’ll do it again. You’ve planted that seed. If you make a habit of it, then people will learn that this is who you are and they will instinctively not trust you to follow through with commitments.

Authentic Leaders listen. They really really listen. Showing people you are willing to put aside all distractions and completely listen to them builds trust. If you’re messing with your Smartphone or trying to multitask while someone else is talking to you then you’re sending a message that they don’t matter…at least not as much as whatever it is that’s distracting you. Once they know they aren’t that important to you they will find it much harder to trust you. 

Authentic Leaders show they care. Showing you care for someone can take trust to a much higher level. As humans it’s very difficult for us to trust people who we know don’t care about us. The opposite is true as well. When we know someone cares enough about us to invest a part of themselves in our well-being then it’s much easier to trust them. 

Authentic Leaders invest the time to get to know their people so they will know how to care for them. That’s a critical step in building the emotional trust that must exist before one person is willing to commit to another. 

If you’re in a leadership position don’t make the mistake of believing people trust you because of it. There are some people who won’t trust you precisely because of it. You need to understand that trust is built everyday. It is built upon your words and actions. Everything you say and do matters…at least where trust building is involved. 

If you haven’t taken an intentional step today to increase the trust level of your team then you may need to be concerned that the trust level has decreased.

Don’t take that chance, build trust every day…it’s the one absolute prerequisite for Authentic Leadership. 

Don’t Lose Track of This

There are many different types of assets that appear on the balance sheet of a business. Perhaps the most important asset however does not.

That asset is the organization’s culture. 

Culture can develop within an organization all by itself. It has a life of its own. It’s kind of like a wild dog. It’s a dog but you don’t want it as a pet.

A healthy organizational culture does not develop all by itself. It requires a constant effort by the organization’s top leader. Responsibility for an organization’s culture cannot be delegated. The top leader can enlist other leaders in the organization to assist with the development of the culture but they can’t turn the steering wheel over to anyone else. 

That’s because culture drives every other process. It drives innovation. It drives engagement. It drives the organization’s attitude. It is the soul of the organization. 

Productive, positive culture does not come from the top leader saying their organization has great culture. In fact, if you’re constantly having to remind the people in your organization of it’s great culture then it’s highly likely that it isn’t all that great. 

Truly excellent culture comes from the top leader showing that they care for their people. It helps if other leaders in the organization model a caring attitude as well but culture development begins at the top.

Sadly it often ends there too. 

Culture is developed in those brief hallway interactions. It grows into a productive force during those quick office “pop-ins” to “see how it’s going.” Every word and every action of the top leader and their leadership team either add to or subtract from the value of the culture. Every word and every action! 

Which brings us to a challenge of our unique times. I’ve never fired up Teams or Zoom on my computer and seen someone walking in the hall I could check in with. Most of those spontaneous interactions are on hold, at least for a while longer. The most effective culture building tool, face-to-face, personal, off the cuff conversations do not happen virtually. 

But they could. And they should.

Don’t lose track of the importance of continuous culture building because the halls of your building might be mostly empty. Pick up the phone. Start a spontaneous Zoom call. Make a FaceTime call on the spur of the moment. 

No agenda, no objective. Just one human connecting with another. 

I can only imagine the trepidation of an entry level employee receiving a call from their organization’s top leader. For many the first thought might not be good. But I can also easily imagine their chest swelling with pride when they realize the call is solely focused on them and their well-being. They know without a doubt that they matter. Their company and leader care about them as a person.

It makes no difference what size your company is, when the person at the top cares then the company cares. Do you care enough for your people to invest a few minutes a day to show it? If you do then you will. 

You want productive culture in challenging times? Then don’t wait for it to happen…go make it happen. Be intentional, be consistent and be caring. 

If you’re at the top of your organization’s leadership team then lead your organization to the culture you need for long-term success. It can happen by accident but you won’t like the result. Don’t let an accident happen, make culture your top priority every day and your organization will be at the top every day too.

They Said Yes, Now What?

The most successful salespeople know that when their customer says yes the relationship is just beginning. Less successful salespeople too often think that when the customer says yes the relationship is now closed.

That’s one of the reasons when I do Sales Training I try to avoid the term “closing the sale.” I use “earn the buying commitment” instead. I want the salespeople to understand that nothing is closed. Nothing is over. The customer has made a commitment to the salesperson and their product and they expect a commitment in return. 

“Closed,” at least when it comes to relationships has a terrible connotation to it. Nobody, not ever, has wanted to be “closed.” I mean really, is there a worse place to be than in the “closing room” at a car dealership?

When the customer says yes they expect every promise and every commitment that the salesperson made to be honored.  They expect them to be honored in a timely fashion with no hassles. They expect the price to be as quoted. They expect the delivery to happen on the date promised. They expect all paperwork and billing to be completed correctly. They expect their calls to be returned and all questions answered. They expect their calls returned quickly. 

They expect whatever it is they have purchased to work as promised and be free of defects. 

In short, they expect exactly what you would expect. The thing that amazes me is how many people will sell something only to “provide” a lower level of service then they would be willing to accept if they were the customer. 

As a professional salesperson, and as a human being, you will never go wrong fully honoring your commitments. When you take care of your customers your customers will take care of you. 

How Free is Free Speech?

When a Social Media platform decides to boot someone off it’s service we hear about the obvious violation of that person’s First Amendment rights. It’s obvious because the First Amendment clearly states that anyone can say anything at anytime and in any way that they want. 

Except it doesn’t actually say that. 

Did you know that the most recent survey says that 88% of the American public has a “deep” respect for the Constitution of The United States of America. The founders of The Republic would be proud. But I’m afraid they would also be discouraged to know that only 28% of Americans have actually read the “people’s document.” 

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. It prohibits any laws that establish a national religion, impede the free exercise of religion, abridge the freedom of speech, infringe upon the freedom of the press, interfere with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibit citizens from petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only applicable to Congress.

It means that a person cannot be held liable, either criminally or civilly for anything written or spoken about a person or topic. So long as it is truthful or based on an honest opinion you’re okay.

The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. I guess that’s why it’s illegal to yell fire in a movie theater unless there’s actually a fire.

Knowing what the First Amendment says might be useful information to have before someone starts claiming that their First Amendment rights have been violated. Understanding what it doesn’t say is equally useful.

It doesn’t say that your employer can’t punish you for saying something they decide is offensive. If they make a rule saying you can’t say “orange juice” then they can terminate you for saying orange juice. So long as they apply the rule to everyone equally they have not denied you any “right.” 

Hiding behind the First Amendment to say hurtful things or things that offend the majority of people only “protects” you from government intervention. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, protect you from the opinions of other people or whatever “rules” society deems appropriate.

I do think we have gotten a little carried away with what we call offensive these days. “Protection” needs to work both ways. It’s just too easy to ruin someone’s life or career by saying they “offended” you in some way. A little common sense might be useful, if someone is offended by somebody else saying “How are you?” then who really has the problem? 

The First Amendment does not say that you are free to say whatever you want, whenever you want, anyway you want. It only says you are free from government intervention if you do. 

So say what you will, just don’t be surprised when the consequences come calling. There is no protection from saying intentionally harmful or hurtful things and there are no excuses either.