Are You a Lazy Leader?

There has never been a time when it was easier to find excellent information on what it takes to be an effective Authentic Leader. There are many outstanding TedTalks and books and blogs on developing yourself as a leader. Much of the content available online is free. You only need to be willing to invest in yourself. 

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, too often some of that content falls under the category of “you get what you pay for.” Along with the excellent content there is stuff provided by hacks who have no business talking about leadership. Actually, they have no business talking at all. 

I came across one such blog post a few weeks ago. The author made the suggestion that leaders should NOT take the time to get to know their people personally. Getting to know someone on a personal level is not necessary. They said you are better off keeping to yourself than wasting time talking with people about non-work topics.

They said connecting to people on a personal level could be misleading and cause them to think you cared about them. It could even lead to the “disastrous” thought that you like them. 

At first I thought the author was being facetious. But as I continued reading it became clear that his recommendation was serious. It also became clear that has was a knucklehead. 

But I’m sure some people in leadership positions agreed with what he said. That’s most likely because while they may be in a leadership position they are certainly not leaders. They are too lazy to invest the time required to Authentically Lead. They won’t invest time to know, understand, and appreciate the people they are supposedly leading. 

Authentic Leaders know that their people want to connect with and get know their leaders. Authentic Leaders get to know each person on their team, their history, their goals, and their aspirations. They understand getting to know their people on a personal level helps them establish rapport and make deeper connections. People generally want to know that those they work with care about them and respect them for their contribution to the team’s success.

Leaders make decisions and judgments about their people that have a tremendous impact on their lives. Authentic Leaders know they can’t do that well without knowing those people. By the way, I should point out that making judgments about a person’s ability to contribute to a team’s success is not the same as judging them as a human being. Authentic Leaders don’t judge people, they make judgments. If you struggle to understand the difference then you’ll likely struggle to lead as well.

It doesn’t take a huge investment of time to know the people you lead but it does require an intentional investment. Don’t think you can learn about your people in your free time…cause there ain’t no such thing as free time for an Authentic Leader. 

Instead set aside 5 minutes EVERY DAY to conduct an “Innerview” with one of your team members. Not an “interview.” An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An “Innerview” is what you do when you want to understand someone enough that you can help them grow, as a person and as a team member. You ask questions to gain an “inner” view of who the person really is. Their goals, personal and professional. Their challenges and struggles, again, both personal and professional. 

Yes, you can do that in 5 minutes a day. IF you do it everyday. Pick a different person each day, if you have a small team you may have several conversations with each of them a month. If you have a very large team then dispatch other leaders in your organization to conduct “innerviews” of their own. 

Knowing your people is vital to helping them grow and develop. If you can’t invest 5 minutes a day to do that then you might be a lazy leader. Too lazy in fact to Authentically Lead.

On a another subject…Donald Trump and Joe Biden both say they “never miss a video from LeadToday on Twitter!” Well… they would say that if they had ever heard of me, or if one of them hadn’t been kicked off Twitter. The videos they aren’t talking about are something new I’m trying 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.

YES, There is a Difference Between Managing and Leading

I haven’t written about this topic for a while. Lately I’ve been frustrated by the number of people I’ve come into contact with who think they are the same. So here I go again!

Managing is about stuff, like budgets, buildings, inventories and spreadsheets. We manage stuff. Leading is about people and only people. No one leads a business, they manage the business. They lead the people who work at the business. 

And NO, I’m not playing games with words. There is a huge difference in the mindset of people who foolishly think they can manage another human being and a person who knows they can’t. Most people know that they personally resist being managed. They want to be led. Many of those same people however, don’t realize that the people they are trying to manage feel just like them. 

If you’re in a leadership position you need to understand that most of the issues you would describe as personnel issues, especially attitude issues, stem from YOU trying to manage people rather than lead them. It will be that way until you actually begin to lead. 

A substantial majority of people holding leadership positions in the United States have never had a minute of formal leadership training. If you’re wondering how that can be here are a couple of statistics for you from research conducted earlier this year. It is consistent with other research done in previous years. 

77% of businesses in the US say that leadership is lacking in their organizations. 83% say that leadership development at all levels within their organization is a priority. Yet only 5% of them have implemented formal leadership development at any level. 

That’s why so many people who hold leadership positions think they are leading when they actually are not. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. 

Managing people may seem easier then leading them. When you manage people you most likely tell them what to do. You tell them if, in your opinion, they did what they were told. If they did what they were told that’s pretty much the end of it. If they didn’t do what they were told there will be hell to pay. Sound familiar?

While managing people may seem easier then leading it is actually creating problems at the same time it is damaging culture. Sometimes severely damaging culture. 

Leading people is complicated. It is challenging. There is no end to it. But…it is 1000 times more rewarding than trying to manage them. You may not always succeed in leading people. You will never, never, never succeed at managing people. 

Leading people is complicated because, well because they are people. They are emotional beings. If you’re going to lead people you must be willing, and prepared, to deal with their emotions. The moment I hear someone in a leadership position say “I refuse to deal with the drama” people try to bring to me, I know I’m talking to a manager rather than a leader. 

Leadership at it’s core is helping people deal with what’s happening in their lives. It is about helping ordinary, often “messy” people achieve extraordinary results. In spite of whatever messes and limitations they may have in their lives. You cannot, you absolutely cannot, lead another human being without caring for them. If you don’t care about what’s happening in their lives you won’t be able to care for them in their careers.

Telling people to keep their “home life” separate from their work like is another sign you’re trying to manage rather than lead. As an emotional human being YOU have never once been able to completely separate your home life from your work life. Yet you expect the people you’re supposed to be leading to do it every day. And then you wonder why your people have an attitude issue. 

I once worked for a guy, thankfully I didn’t report directly to him, who said it was his job to keep people guessing. If they knew what he expected of them then they wouldn’t be “on their toes.” He was kinda right about that because it’s tough to be on your toes when you’re always looking over your shoulder. 

If your people do not know exactly what you expect from them that’s a sure sign you’re not leading. Authentic Leaders communicate with the people they lead. Very very frequently. If you haven’t talked to each one of your direct reports this week then you’re trying to manage them, you’re not leading them.

Please do not even attempt to tell me you don’t have time to even have a five minute conversation each week with every person you’re supposed to be leading. If that’s the case you either have way too many direct reports or you do not understand the difference between trying to manage people and the privilege of leading them. 

Manage things, lead people. When you do that, you, your people, and your business will truly have the opportunity to experience explosive growth.

On a another subject…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 perhaps 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 Telltale Sign of Poor Leadership

One of the questions I’m asked most often, particularly after I’ve done a presentation on Leadership, is why I haven’t written a book on Leadership. The simple answer is, I don’t think I have anything new to add to the incredible books already written on the topic. 

I believe any book I could write would at best be a “me too” book. I might have different stories and examples in my book but they would all lead to the same conclusions. Leadership is about people. Leadership is NOT the same as management. And while some people do indeed seem to have more “born in” leadership traits, the reality is that leaders are made, not born.

But there is one very insidious trait that poor leaders have that I don’t see discussed often enough. This trait is not easily identifiable. Unless like me, you intently study leaders to observe what separates Authentic Leaders from those who merely think they are leading. 

People who experience leaders with this trait most often can’t put their finger on exactly what about the person is sending off the bad vibes. They know there’s something “off.” They can’t exactly trust the person but unless they are paying attention it’s more of a feeling than anything else.

Most people with this trait who find themselves in leadership positions struggle to lead. That’s because most of them have not identified this trait within themselves either. They often place the blame for their poor leadership on the people they are supposed to be leading. Turnover in their organizations is high and as long as this trait persists it will remain high. In organizations where one or more leaders possess this trait employee engagement will be too low for obstacles to be overcome. Goals will not be achieved. 

This trait is called the “I trait.” “I” as in “I’m” telling you. Or “I” expect this. Or worse “I” accomplished great things this year. 

“I” is the least inclusive word someone in a leadership position can use. Many people in leadership positions lack awareness of how many times they say “I.” Some unfortunately are very aware and use it intentionally. Sometimes to take credit away from their people and other times to make themselves seem more important to their organizations than they actually are.

“I” is the preferred pronoun of people who think they are leaders when they aren’t. The more a person in a leadership position uses “I” and it’s possessive form, “my” or “mine” the less likely it is that people will commit to following them. Absent that commitment there is no true leadership.

I was on a call not long ago where a person who believes that are a leader used “I,” “my” or mine over 70 times in a one hour call, and they only spoke for a part of it. I wouldn’t normally count how many times a person uses a particular word in conversation. As I became aware of it’s overuse early in the call I starting counting. That’s why I said over 70, it was likely way over because I didn’t start counting right away. 

The more someone in a leadership position uses “I” the more they separate themselves from the team. Whether it is intentional or not. 

Poor leaders use “I” far far more than effective Authentic Leaders. The overuse of the word “I” is the one sure sign of poor leadership. The more a person in a leadership position uses it, the less engagement they can expect from their people. That’s an absolute fact.

If you’re in a leadership position, have someone listen in on your conversations. Ask them to track how often you say “I” when “we” would have been more appropriate. If that isn’t an option then record some of your conversations and listen to them yourself. Practice eliminating “I” from your vocabulary, it can most often, and most effectively, be replaced with “we.”

“We” indicates your leadership is about the people you lead. “I” indicates it is all about you. “I” indicates YOU have a lot to learn about leading people to their full potential. It indicates you’re a long way from reaching yours as well.

On a another subject…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 perhaps 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 just 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.

Leadership Visibility

Much has been written about the most important characteristics of an Authentic Leader. Some would say judgement, some would say integrity. Some would say its something else but after integrity and judgement it kinda depends on the circumstances. 

But one characteristic is seldom mentioned. That characteristic is being visible. If your people can’t see you then your people can’t follow you. 

As a leader you are the model for the culture of your organization. You are the face of the values your organization represents. You are the cheerleader in chief and the light of hope when circumstances look dark.

But you can’t be any of those things if you’re not seen…on a very regular basis. 

There are many ways to communicate with your people these days. You can write a company blog. You can publish a weekly video. You can do email blasts a few times a week. But none of those can come close to just being “out there” among the people you lead. Short hallway conversations with anyone and everyone in your organization makes everyone feel as if they belong. The higher up you are in the organization the more these brief conversations are valued by the people you lead.

And there’s the challenge. The higher you are in the organization the more likely you are to get bogged down with the day to day requirements of managing the organization. It may feel as if the last thing you have time for is a talk with Patty from the mail room or Jerry from the loading dock. You may not even have time to talk with all your senior leaders. 

But that’s a terrible mistake.

No matter how busy you may be managing, never forget you’re a leader first. The health and culture of your organization will be largely (or should I say bigly?) determined by the quality of the relationships you have with each and every member of your team. The higher you are in the organization the greater the impact your words will have on people. A quick question to Patty about how she is doing can turn a disengaged employee into an engaged one. An additional comment about how much you recognize and appreciate Patty’s efforts will help the engagement last. 

If you’re wondering about how to tell if you’re “out there” frequently enough here is the only measurement that counts. The measurement is your people’s opinion. If your people think you’re invisible then you are. If they never see you then you might as well not exist. You can tell yourself that you’re more than visible but you don’t get a vote. The perception of your people is all that matters.

Visibility is the characteristic that not all leaders possess, not even all Authentic Leaders, but all Authentic Servant Leaders do. What they understand is that leadership is about people, and they know that strong relationships matter to their people. 

They make building those relationships a priority and they know they can’t build them while sitting behind a desk.

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over 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 the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

Angry Coaching

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to coach and motivate their people. Coaching and motivating do not always go hand in hand. Although they should.

Sometimes coaching shows up all alone. Most often that is when the coaching is angry coaching. Angry coaching is frequently the only kind of coaching limited leaders know how to do. 

These types of limited leaders coach almost exclusively for corrective action. When one of their people has done something they consider wrong. Coaching someone for corrective action can always be an emotion packed conversation because it involves telling someone they have done or said something they shouldn’t have. If they disagree then they likely become defensive and that’s when emotions come into play. 

Sometimes the limited leaders bring their emotions to the conversation too. That’s always a mistake. Particularly if they are upset, mad, or frustrated with the actions of the individual they are coaching. 

The most effective leaders know it’s best to remove as much emotion as possible from a corrective action conversation. So if one of your people has made a mistake and you’re upset with that mistake give yourself some time before you begin to coach.

Generally speaking it’s best to coach in real time. That means as soon as you see something wrong you should say something. But if your emotions are in the way then wait. Don’t wait days, only wait long enough to regain control of your emotions. Your goal should be a positive conversation about something that may otherwise seem negative. Never, yep, I know that’s a big word but I’ll say it again, NEVER wait for an annual review to coach and dump everything on your team member at once. That’s a sure fire way to create a disengaged person.

I’ve had people in leadership positions tell me that sometimes the only way to get their people’s attention is to yell at them. If you agree with that then you may be in a leadership position but you are not a leader. Yelling is not leading…unless you’re cheering the success of your team. 

One way to ensure that your coaching is making a difference is to balance your coaching conversations between coaching for corrective actions and coaching for positive reinforcement. Yep, when your people do something right is also a perfect time to coach. 

Authentic Leaders don’t only look for what may be wrong. They look for what’s right and they seldom miss an opportunity to call that out. Letting a team member know you’ve noticed their efforts and that you appreciate those efforts is a very good way to ensure those efforts continue. While coaching for corrective action is always done in private, coaching for positive reinforcement can be done as publicly as the person being coached is comfortable with. 

A couple of more thoughts on effective coaching. Never use your passion as an excuse for losing control of your emotions. You’ve likely heard that before you can lead anyone else you must lead yourself exceptionally well. Controlling your emotions is but one example of leading yourself exceptionally well. If you can’t do that then you can’t lead. 

Remember as well that often it’s things we whisper that are easiest for others to hear. The loudness of our voice does not carry the message, it’s the tone of our voice that matters most. 

Coaching, honest, open, and timely coaching is an everyday requirement of Authentic Leadership. No matter your title or your position, if you go a day without coaching then you’ve gone a day without leading. 

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over 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 the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

Forgetful Leadership

Here’s a common trap that busy leaders too often fall into. Even very good leaders frequently have this happen to them. The busier they are the more likely it is to happen. 

The trap is simply forgetting to lead. They forget about the huge difference between managing and leading. Leading is a challenge that brings with it many rewards. Attempting to manage people seems easier but it brings a host of “people problems.” When leaders get especially busy they can revert to trying to manage people rather than lead them. 

That’s a problem but here’s what makes it an even bigger problem than you think. The busier your organization is the more stress everyone who works there is under. When the people you lead are stressed that’s when they most need your leadership. But you’re busy too and you forget that leading never stops, or at least it shouldn’t stop. 

When your people most need your leadership is when you’re most likely to forget to lead.

It’s why I recommend that busy leaders actually set reminders in their smartphones. Reminders to make certain they are doing the basic “blocking and tackling” of leadership every day. Especially when they and their people are particularly busy. 

A few of the basics of leadership would be things like recognizing a team member. Coaching for corrective action with a person who may be struggling. Coaching someone who is doing particularly well to reinforce their positive behavior. Showing your people that they matter and that you care about them. All of those things are important, they are even more important in times of stress. 

Slowing yourself down in order to come along side of your people when they most need you pays terrific dividends. Dividends in the form of increased productivity, better morale and an overall culture of success. 

But…easier said than done right? Well tell me one thing worth doing that isn’t easier said than done. Most people reading this would tell me their people are their greatest resource. Then they say they don’t have time to slow down long enough to lead that “greatest resource.” 

Think about what that means. It means that you are intentionally making the decision to focus your attention on something other than your greatest resource. When your greatest resource most needs your attention.

Does that sound like a recipe for success? Does it sound like effective leadership? Does it sound like that would ever be a good idea?

Authentic Leaders do their best leading when leadership in most needed. Limited leaders often forget to lead when their leadership could have the most impact on their greatest resource. 

Don’t fall in the trap of forgetful leadership. Your people will reward you with their commitment when you put them first rather than the 100 other things vying for your attention. 

Don’t forget that either!

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over 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 the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

How to Spot an Authentic Servant Leader

In 2002 Pastor Rick Warren wrote an outstanding book entitled “The Purpose Driven Life.” I will always remember the very first sentence in the book… “It’s not about you.”

Every Authentic Servant Leader I’ve ever met, and I’ve been fortunate to meet a few, lived their leadership according to that simple sentence. They intentionally keep the focus on the accomplishments of the people they lead. They don’t simply share credit for success, they humbly give it all away. 

Authentic Servant Leaders measure their success by the success of their people. The goal of an Authentic Servant Leader is to grow people, to help them be “better” in every way a person can be better. 

They invest a piece of themselves in every person they lead. The do not prejudge anyone. They recognize that every individual has strengths and gifts. They work to make certain that their people are in positions where they can use their strengths. They do not set their people up to fail. 

Authentic Servant Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors and they can be a man or a woman. They can be old or young. They can come from the finest of formal educations or have a completely informal education. An Authentic Servant Leader could be almost anyone. But they are still easy to spot. 

You know one when you see one because they are they ones who through every word, every action and every interaction SHOW that they understand, without a doubt, that their leadership is not about them. It’s is always and only about the people they lead. 

If you aspire to be an Authentic Servant Leader then always always keep in mind, “It’s not about you.”