Business as Usual

The current state of the world absolutely does not allow business to be conducted as usual. Perhaps no time in history have businesses, and every person alive for that matter, been faced with so many unknowns.

No one likes unknowns.

In you’re in a leadership position then one of the things you should be doing right now is providing the people you lead with as many “knowns” as possible. Few things will be business as usual so find as many usual things as you possible can and put them in front of your people.

Many readers of this blog are not aware that in addition to writing this blog I also have a full time job. I do a ton of speaking each year. While I also speak outside of my industry the majority of my speaking opportunities are in support of my employer and our customers.

I never write about my “day job.” But the current crisis around the Coronavirus has provided me the opportunity to witness firsthand some truly outstanding leadership. But this week I would say I saw nothing less than brilliant leadership.

Those who know me also know that I am a harsh judge of leaders and leadership. I believe that if you have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you darn well better lead, really really lead. Lately I’ve seen a ton of what can only be described as Authentic Leadership.

In a company-wide meeting this week, conducted for the first time virtually for obvious reasons, the organization’s leadership made the decision to make the meeting as normal as possible.

There was a needed update on preparedness for and steps taken against the virus. But it did not dominate the meeting. It would have been easy, and expected, that the doom and gloom over-taking many organizations would have been the focus, but it was not. The focus was on business as usual.

That was the brilliant part.

It almost didn’t matter what was discussed. What mattered was what wasn’t. The current situation was appropriately covered and then it was on to business. Instead of sucking life out of the organization the leadership team literally pumped life along with enthusiasm into the organization. The calming effect of even a bit of normalcy could almost be felt over the Internet.

Brilliant is the only word I can think of to describe it.

It showed me the absolute importance of leading by example. If you’re in a position of leadership don’t merely tell your people that everything will be okay, show them. Show them by demonstrating as much normalcy in these highly unusual times as you possible can.

Business as usual will be challenging for the foreseeable future but I had a glimpse this week of just how much people are craving even a bit of normalcy. I’ve never written this before but for at least a while one of the best leadership actions you can take is to be so normal that you risk boring your team.

Now, as much as ever in history people need leadership. If you’re a leader who can provide the people you lead with even a bit of stability then you are a leader who was made for these times.

One last thought, I know business as usual will be nearly impossible for many people. You must understand that “nearly impossible” and “impossible” are two very different things. If you can’t keep business “usual” then figure out a way to provide your people a bit of normalcy in their personal lives. Leadership, at least Authentic Leadership isn’t easy and it doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. So don’t assume anything is impossible, just figure it out. That’s what great leaders do!

Encouragement Required

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you have accepted the responsibility of helping the people you lead reach their full potential. That’s an awesome responsibility!

The task of helping others reach their full potential is multi-faceted. You’re a coach, teacher, sometimes a disciplinarian and always a motivator. You demonstrate that you care for the people you lead and you know that caring doesn’t stop at the end of a work day.

You are also an encourager. You’re an encourager when things are going well and when things are not going so well. You look for opportunities to encourage every member of your team because you understand that every member of your team needs encouragement.

The need for encouragement has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the people you lead. Your top performers need encouragement as much as your people who are not currently performing near their potential. It’s a human thing. Everyone needs and responds to encouragement.

A common mistake that many leaders make is assuming that a compliment and encouragement are one and the same. They are not. They are in fact distinctly different.

A compliment is an expression of praise or congratulations. They most often sound like “good job” or “nice hat” or something along those lines. We could do an entire post on how to give a compliment but we’ll do a short version here.

A true compliment has two parts. The first part is the expression of praise. That’s where most people stop. When we stop with the simple expression of praise we can leave the recipient of the compliment wondering why we gave it in the first place. They may question our motives and wonder what we expect in return.

The second part of the compliment leaves no doubt in the mind of the recipient about why they are receiving the praise. The second part is what I call the “evidence.”

For instance, if the compliment includes something about “good job” it should immediately be followed with “the reason I say that is….” If you have no concrete reason for giving the compliment then don’t give it. The second part of the compliment deepens the significance of the praise. It makes the compliment more “real.” A compliment backed up with evidence has staying power for the recipient. It shows the sincerity of the compliment giver and gives the compliment itself much greater impact.

Encouragement is different from a compliment. Encouragement is about you as a leader sharing your courage with others. It’s about supporting their efforts, most often verbally but sometimes by digging in and physically helping them complete a task.

Encouragement is about building the confidence of your people and offering them hope. Sometimes it’s about shining a light on the hope that exists in a seemingly hopeless situation.

People often need encouragement when they have been delegated a new or unfamiliar task. That encouragement can sound something like this: “I asked you to do this because I have complete confidence that you can get it done. You have the brains, experience, and knowledge required to do this well. I have total faith in you, I believe in you, I’m certain you can and will do this well. I’m here for you as you undertake this assignment and I’m excited about what you’re going to accomplish.”

As you can see, that’s very different from a compliment. Compliments and encouragement are both excellent tools commonly used by Authentic Leaders. It’s also a common mistake of new leaders to think compliments are enough to encourage their people. They are not!

Encourage your people early and often. You’ll likely see more growth than you…or they ever thought was possible.

Managing vs Leading – Part Eight

Managing things is a critical function for any business or organization. It is equally critical for all managers and leaders within any business or organization to understand that they do in fact manage “things” but that the people of that business or organization require leadership.

Some of the things that need managing are capital equipment like copiers and computers. Vehicles, buildings, forklifts, and other similar types of equipment are typical of the type of things that get managed. Part of managing those things is putting them on a depreciation schedule for tax purposes. Each year a business or organization owns those “things” they are worth less. They depreciate in value.

No manager, no matter how bad at managing they may be, can cause the value of a human being as a person to depreciate. They can however cause the productivity and commitment level of that human being to depreciate rather quickly. All they need to do is attempt to manage that person as if they were a “thing” instead of leading them as if they are a person.

We have talked a lot in this series about the difference between managing and leading but here is the bottom line. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re attempting to manage your people as if they are co-equals with your “things” then you are creating the vast majority of the issues that you would describe as “personnel issues.”

Many people in leadership positions would say they have people reporting to them who have poor attitudes. They claim to have people who are often tardy and when they finally show up for work they are disengaged. Leaders in name only complain about low productivity people and people who show no initiative. The list of problems and complaints go on and on.

What these leaders in name only fail to understand is that the root cause of nearly 100% of these problems point directly to them. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re trying to manage your people instead of leading them then YOU are almost certainly the cause of every “people problem” you’re complaining about.

I know that isn’t easy to hear but it is a reality you must come to grips with if you’re ever going to become an Authentic Leader.

The good news is that you don’t need better people. There are no better people in the world than the ones you have now. If you think they need to change then you need to change.

You need to change from a person who merely occupies a position of leadership to an Authentic Leader. You need to treat your people like the emotional human beings they are. You need to tap into their hopes. You need to tap into their dreams. You need to tap into their natural enthusiasm. You need to tap into their goals, their needs and their good ideas.

If you don’t see those things in the people you have in your organization today then I’ll guarantee you that you’re trying to manage them instead of investing the time required to authentically lead them.

The fastest way to change anything is to change how you look at it. Do not look at your people as “human assets” or “Human Resources” or for heavens sake, things. See them as the special human beings that they are. Then treat them that way. Lead them!

Before you know it all those “people problems” will fade away. You’ll be tempted to think that your people have all changed but what they have become was always there. It’s is you who will have changed.

You’ll have changed from a person who merely occupies a position of leadership to someone who actually leads. You’ll have made a difference in the lives of your people and you’ll never attempt to manage your people again.

This is the final installment of the Managing vs Leading series. I hope you will take it to heart. The world has plenty of insightful and incredibly effective managers. What the world needs is more Authentic Leaders. Many many more.

Can you be one of those who decide to make a difference? You can if you make the decision to Lead Today. I hope you will!

Managing vs Leading – Part Six

There are several key differences between people who hold leadership positions and people who actually lead. As I’ve said frequently in this series people who hold leadership positions often attempt to manage their people. Leaders, whether they hold a leadership position or not, actually lead people.

Leaders who lead develop a Followership. Leaders who attempt to manage people hope to create subordinates. The difference is huge.

Subordinates comply with the demands, directives and requests of the boss. Sometimes they comply willingly and sometimes not. Sometimes they flat out resist the directives. In worse case scenarios they work against their boss and become a cancer to the entire organization. They frequently draw other team members into their sea of discontent.

At best a person in a position of leadership who attempts to manage their people can expect a mediocre level of performance. The development of their people is stunted and their potential is limited. Over time their people become disengaged. Even otherwise excellent people do not give the effort required for long-term success when they are managed.

When a leader leads they first work to create strong followers. Then they raise the bar to turn those followers into future leaders. People who are led don’t see the requests of their leaders as demands or directives. They do not comply with the requests because compliance isn’t needed. They are committed to the leader and they do whatever it takes to make certain they do not disappoint them.

Their level of work is frequently, almost always in fact, superior to managed people. They work with their leader to ensure all requirements for successful outcomes are met. People who are led instead of managed have a positive impact on the team by displaying both a more positive attitude and impressive work habits.

Leaders who lead help their people grow. Their people develop far faster than managed people. They also have a very good shot at reaching their full potential.

If you’re a person in a position of leadership who is attempting to manage your people you’re not going to like this next sentence. If you’re attempting to manage people then you’re causing an overwhelming percentage of the problems you would describe as personnel issues.

Subordinates will seldom help you grow as an organization because you’re not helping them grow as people. It may look as if leading people is harder than managing them and in fact it is…but only in the short term. In the long term the only way to eliminate personnel issues is to realize that your personnel are people. That is forgotten by far too many managers who occupy leadership positions. When you help your people grow, the rewards, both tangible and intangible far outweigh the extra effort required to truly lead.

People resist feeling managed. They respond to feeling led. Are the people you’re responsible for developing resisting you or responding to you?

The answer to that single question may hold the key to your future success and the success of your organization.

Managing vs Leading – Part Five

Solid management is essential for any organization with a desire for stability. Authentic Leadership is even more essential for any organization hoping to grow.

That’s one of the key differences between managing and leading. You can manage an organization to stay the course. You can hold it steady with basic management principles and hope your competitors are satisfied with only managing their organization too.

But if you want to grow your organization or stay ahead of your competition then you’re going to need to lead the people who make up your organization.

Managing is all about the policies and procedures of today. Leading is about the vision and strategies of tomorrow. Policies and procedures matter. They provide the stability that organizations need to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Without those policies and procedures chaos ensues and productivity stops. That’s why great management is every bit as vital as great leadership.

Leaders are responsible to shape, share and sell their vision to the people they lead. Asking someone to follow you and then not giving them any idea of where they are following you to does not work. A leader’s vision should provide a guidepost for decision making. When faced with a decision ask if whatever you’re deciding will move you in the direction of your vision. If the answer is no then your decision is made.

Leaders also determine the strategies used to achieve the goals required to make the vision a reality. The management team will implement the tactics required to achieve the goals but absent those goals there are no tactics that will result in long-term success. That’s why great leadership is every bit as vital as great management.

Now I need to ask the obvious question. Do the people you are supposed to be leading know where you’re going? Have you shared your vision with them and showed them where they fit in the vision? Do you even have a vision? Does that vision include the people who are responsible for the day-to day success of your organization?

If your answers are anything other than a very strong YES then you may be doing far more managing than leading. If that’s the case you’ve just discovered why your organization is struggling to grow.

Provide at least the same level of leadership as you do management and you’ll quickly notice the difference in your people, their productivity and the strength of your entire organization.

Managing vs Leading – Part Four

When people in a position of leadership merely attempt to manage their people they tend to see their people as an asset, much like a computer or printer. When someone they are attempting to manage is underperforming they think in terms of spending time on that person to bring them up to speed. That doesn’t make them a bad person or even a poor manager. It does however make them a very ineffective leader.

When a person in a position of leadership actually leads they see the people they lead as human beings. When someone they lead is underperforming they choose to invest time with them to help them reach their full potential. They never see their people as an expense, they see them as an investment. They are always an investment.

Seeing people as an expense creates nothing but problems. Seeing people as an investment creates all kinds of opportunities. Changing your mindset from “people expense” to “people investment” changes everything!

It changes you from someone occupying a position of leadership to someone with a legitimate opportunity to become an Authentic Leader.

You will know you’ve made the most of that opportunity when you are consistently showing the people you lead that you care. You will have made the most of that opportunity when you work each day to ensure that your people know that they matter more than their work. Authentic Leaders know that everyone has a need to feel worthwhile and they invest a part of themselves to make certain that their people never doubt their personal value.

Authentic Leaders are encouragers. They know becoming discouraged isn’t a weakness, it’s a part of living. They intentionally watch for times their people could use an extra boost. They provide meaningful encouragement to help them overcome rough patches.

Authentic Leaders have learned that their people value a relationship with them. It isn’t necessarily the “let’s grab a beer after work” kind of relationship. It’s more of a professional, mentor/mentee relationship. It is a relationship with enough trust that both sides can openly talk about personal and professional concerns. Authentic Leaders don’t need an “open door” policy because it’s their heart that’s always open.

Authentic Leaders are well aware that the people they lead are vital to their own success so they are a priority. They don’t invest their spare time in their people, they don’t encourage them when it’s convenient. They don’t show they care because they heard it’s important. They don’t help their people feel worthwhile so they can get more work out of them.

They do all those things because they truly care. They do those things because they care for their people as human beings and value their success as much as their own. They do all those things because they do more than manage their people, they lead them. The difference between the two is life changing.

Managing vs Leading – Part Three

As you gain an understanding of the characteristics of a leader you move from the mindset of managing people to truly leading them. If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience Authentic Leadership from someone else in your organization then your understanding of those characteristics will happen quickly. If you’ve had the misfortune of working only for a boss then your transition from managing to actually leading could be much slower…if it happens at all.

Considering that I make my living “teaching” people how to lead this next sentence might come as a surprise to some. The fact is that leadership cannot be taught. It can only be modeled.

What I can do is teach the characteristics of an Authentic Leader. That tends to speed up the process of transitioning from attempting to manage people to truly leading them.

The characteristics of leadership that I most often speak and write about include Integrity. I list that as the most important characteristic of leadership because if people don’t trust you they cannot follow you.

This is one of the reasons it is so much more challenging to lead people than it is to manage them. Someone who is managing people has less to be concerned about when it comes to trust. They are forcing the compliance of their people and trust is not a requirement for compliance.

A leader however puts forth the effort to earn the commitment of their people. They know that without the trust of their people that commitment is impossible. So they do what they say they will do. Their actions match their words. Trust comes directly from integrity so Authentic Leaders speak, act and even think with integrity.

People in leadership positions who manage people want to be trusted but they hope for the trust of their people. A leader intentionally works for it. A manager expects the commitment of their people. An Authentic Leader understands that commitment is a two-way street. They commit to their people before they expect their people to commit to them.

Another vital characteristic of leadership is judgment. Leaders are required to make decisions both large and small. They don’t get them all right but they get most of the big ones right. They don’t assume and when they need more information to make a sound decision they seek it out. They know that they don’t need to know it all and they don’t think admitting that they don’t is a weakness.

Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Authentic Leaders display moral courage. Their judgment is informed by that moral courage and they do not shy away from difficult decisions or the conflicts that can result. They don’t need a poll to know what is right. They know what is wrong is wrong, even if everyone else is doing it.

Managers may say they care and indeed they may but Authentic Leaders show they care and they do it with great intentionality. Saying you care leaves room for doubt, showing you care removes that doubt and deepens the commitment level of your people.

Caring for people is an essential leadership characteristic. It has been said by too many people to know who said it first that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Authentic Leaders know that it is not a weakness to demonstrate caring and compassion for people. They genuinely want the best for people in general and especially for the people they lead.

Their caring motives are always on display and it’s that characteristic that initially draws people to them. Where a manager might leave you wondering about their motives an Authentic Leader never will.