How to Build People

Leadership is about people, and people only.

You manage things; budgets, inventories, and plans but you lead people. The ultimate goal of leading people should be building them and helping them succeed.

One of the biggest obstacles to building people is time. People development requires time, and most people in leadership positions are incredibly busy people. The speed of business is increasing by the day and with that speed comes a bushel of urgent tasks. The problem is, urgent things are very often not the most important thing you can be doing. They also are frequently not the most productive thing you could be doing.

In my perhaps not so humble opinion building people is one of the most productive actions a leader can take. But for too many leaders the urgent stuff gets in the way. It’s called the tyranny of the urgent. It prevents well intentioned leaders from doing the important things that offer a high return on their time investment.

If you’re a leader who sees developing your people as an expense of your time then you likely won’t take or find the time required to build them. However, if you see developing your people as an investment, an investment of your time, then you are likely to find or make the time required to build them.

So how exactly do you invest this time you’ve worked so hard to find?

Well, you invest it in getting to know you’re people, in understanding their motivations and how you can help them stay engaged. You invest time to show them how much you care. You invest time to demonstrate to your people how they make a difference. 

Some leaders say their people are their most important asset, successful leaders don’t waste time saying…. they use their time showing.

Showing your people that they are worth your time is the fastest and most effective way to build your people. Don’t be a “say” leader, be a “show” leader and start building your people today.

Transformational Leadership

One of the eight major leadership theories is known as the Relationship Theory of Leadership, also known as Transformational Leadership. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire people by helping team members see the importance of their role within the organization. These leaders are focused on the performance of team members and also want to help each person fulfill his or her potential. Leaders with this style often have high ethical and moral standards.

I am a big fan of and believer in Transformational Leadership. 

I believe in Transformational Leadership because transformational leaders leave something of value behind after they are gone. They leave more leaders. 

Transactional Leaders have high but reasonable expectations for their people. They inspire them to put forth their best effort because it is simply the right thing to do. They help their people through coaching and mentoring to achieve extraordinary outcomes and to develop their own leadership skills. In short, they help ordinary people accomplish the extraordinary.

Transformational leaders help followers grow by responding to their followers’ needs and by empowering them to make decisions. These leaders help to align the objectives and goals of the individual followers with the goals and objectives of the team and even the larger organization.

Researchers have found that this style of leadership indeed has the desired positive effect on people. “Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders,” explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio in an article appearing on the Psychology Today website. 

Transformational Leadership reinforces the importance of truly caring for the people you lead. Transformational Leadership requires that the leader invest a part of themselves in their people and that they care as much (or more) about the success of their people as they do their own.

Transformational Leaders fully understand that ultimately their own success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Virtually every action they take and every word they speak reflects that understanding. 

The effort required to be a Transformational Leader is substantial but so are the rewards. Anyone can build stuff but it takes a special kind of person to build people, especially people who themselves become leaders.

Transformational Leadership is a rewarding style of leadership and if the leaders you help build eventually build leaders of their own then the rewards can go on indefinitely. 

Now that’s what I call leadership! 

 

When to Stop Investing in People

I frequently speak with groups on the topic of leadership. Sometimes the groups are just too large to have a real two-way conversation but once in a while they are small enough to allow for a real dialogue to take place. Those are my favorite presentations.

Last week was one of those smaller interactions. One of the questions I received was as serious, challenging and complicated as a question can get. 

The question came during a segment in which I was speaking about the difference between a management mindset and the mindset of a leader. A management mindset thinks “I have a person working for me who isn’t getting the job done. I better spend some time on them.” A leadership mindset thinks, “I have a person working with me who isn’t getting the job done, I better invest some time with them.”

Leaders see people as an investment, not an expense.

Let’s be clear on this, leadership is about people. We don’t lead companies, we don’t lead budgets, we don’t lead buildings or inventories, we manage them. We lead people!

People don’t want to be managed, they want leadership. You’ll hear people complain every single day about being micro-managed but you’ve probably never heard a person say the word, micro-led. 

Leaders invest their time, experience, knowledge and even a piece of themselves in the development of their people. The success of their people is as important to them as their own success. If their people fail they take at least partial ownership in that failure.

But…

There does come a time when a leader has done all that they can do and still one of their people is just not progressing. Investing in people is much more complicated than any other investment, there is much more at stake. But just like any other investment that doesn’t work out, at some point in time you just have to cut your losses. 

The question I was asked was, “When is it time to stop investing in a person and let them go?”

THAT is one big question. I hate failing at anything, I hate failing with people development even more. I’m supposed to be good at it, I’m supposed to help people perform better. When I don’t then I’ve failed. So the decision to stop investing is a big one… but it’s not a hard one.

Here’s how I answered the question.

I stop investing when the good of the one begins to outweigh the good of the many. Simply stated, when the time required to help just one person grow begins to negatively impact and limit the amount of time I can invest with the rest of the team, I have to stop investing in the “one.”

This is particularly true when there seems to be little or no return on that investment. No leader can sacrifice the “many” for the “one.” 

Letting someone go, demoting them or reassigning them is a terrible decision to have to make, but leaders make that decision. Leaders do not let their ego get in the way, they admit, that for whatever reason, this is “one” they just can’t help develop. 

Leaders do what needs to be done, that’s one way, one very big way, that you can tell they are a leader.

 

Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge – Part One

Leadership challenges vary by organization. Big organizations have different leadership challenges than small ones. Mature organizations have outgrown some of the leadership challenges that persist in newer organizations. 

In general however this is the biggest leadership challenge facing all organizations today: finding tomorrow’s leaders.

No matter how effective a leader you may be, if you do not at least help find and develop your successor then you will not have completely succeeded as a leader. You may have accomplished great things as a leader but if your accomplishments do not outlast you then you will not be remembered as a great leader. 

The best and most likely way to ensure your accomplishments outlast your tenure as the leader is to develop the next generation of leadership within your organization. 

But that’s not as easy as it used to be for two main reasons.

The first reason is this: The average employee today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that. In fact, ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years.

There are many reasons for this job-hopping behavior but the biggest seems to be speedy career advancement. Job-hopping allows many younger employees the opportunity to “promote” themselves without the “dues paying” that older employees endured. 

This is NOT a knock on younger employees, they are every bit as committed, intelligent, and hard working as employees in any age group. They just (rightly) value life balance more than employees of older generations. 

But job-hopping also gives them a skewered view of what Authentic Servant Leadership, real leadership, looks like. They see “slivers” of leadership but not the whole picture. They simply don’t stay in any one place long enough to become well developed leaders because they don’t stay anyplace long enough to develop a mentored relationship with an Authentic Leader. The more career moves they make the more gaps they are likely to have in their leadership ability. 

Today’s leaders need to identify younger employees with leadership potential sooner and begin a mentoring relationship that will motivate them to see their potential where they are. Their personal motives are no different than any other generation; they NEED to know they matter and they need to know they can make a difference. 

Far, far more employees will leave the workforce in the next 15 years than will join it. Organizations hoping for future success are unlikely to achieve it without a strong mentoring program that encourages future leaders to stay where they are at. It doesn’t matter whether you lead a huge organization or a 5 person company, you will be impacted by the shrinking workforce. 

Don’t allow your organization to get behind the curve on this issue, put a mentoring program in place today.

In Part Two of “Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge” we’ll look at the second issue hindering the development of future leaders, micro-managing. But for those of you who believe you are micro-managed don’t get your hopes up, you may be more responsible for this than you would like to admit. 

 
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Your Most Expensive Employee

7218CE00-05C5-4C4A-9644-BEAC2B76D45A.pngIf you’re managing a business then keeping track of expenses is probably high on your list of priorities. One of your biggest expenditures is likely to be compensation for your employees. I’m sure you know what you’re paying your people but do you know what they are costing you?

I can’t be sure who your most expensive employee is but I do know it’s likely one of the types of individuals I describe below.

The first is a “manager” of people. That in itself is a problem because people will not be managed. People resist being managed because they are people, they expect leadership, not management.

A manager was explaining to me the challenges of managing a particular new employee. When I suggested that they try leading this particular individual instead of managing them I was more than a little surprised and disappointed by their response. 

The manager said employees must be managed before they can be led. They must have the “spirit” managed out of them because people with “spirit” won’t follow anyone. Apparently only people with their “spirit” broken can be “tamed” enough to follow. 

I found it almost impossible to believe that anyone could think that way. It was medieval leadership at it’s worst. 

It’s also incredibly expensive these days. Disengaged employees cost organizations a ton of money and one of the fastest ways to cause them to disengage is to break their spirit. Make them feel unimportant and they quickly become unproductive too.

No organization that intends to last can afford medieval leadership or management.

The second type of very expensive employee is the know it all manager. They know everything they need to know and they have nothing left to learn. 

I talked to a manager a while back who had just lost a very talented team member. When I asked if they had learned anything in the exit interview about why the employee left I was again surprised and disappointed by the answer. 

They said that they had nothing to learn from a quitter. They weren’t even interested in looking at the exit interview because “people come and go” and “there is nothing that a manager can do about it.” 

The second part might be right… there is nothing a manger can do about it. 

But a leader can! 

The odds are pretty high that if the employee had felt led they may not have left in the first place. But even if they had decided to go a leader would want to understand why and what they as a leader could have done differently to help the employee want to stay. 

Organizations invest a small fortune in recruiting and training their talent. Then they turn them over to a manager who treats them like a piece of equipment; the same as the copy machine.

If you intend for your organization to stand the test of time then you need to invest as much in developing your leaders as you do in developing the people they lead.

Do not allow your leaders to manage people, teach them to lead and they will be a bargain, no matter how much you pay them. 

The Ultimate Test of Leadership

The ultimate test of leadership is this: Do you as a leader have the ability to help common people achieve uncommon performance? Can you help a follower or a weak leader become a strong leader?

A leader, a true leader anyway, has many responsibilities. Leadership requires sacrifice, commitment and often, steadfast determination to push further when those around you are suggesting that you don’t.

I believe that the greatest of all leadership responsibilities is building people, and hopefully, building them into leaders. If as a leader, you fail to develop a leader who can fill your role upon your departure then it’s unlikely that your leadership can be deemed a complete success. Leaders who cannot build more leaders are limited leaders. That is not my opinion, that is a fact.

That limitation will also limit almost every other aspect of an organization’s growth. That’s simple math; two leaders can grow an organization faster than one, three can grow it faster than two, four can… well, you get the idea.

The challenge for leaders is that people development requires time and too many people in leadership positions believe they can’t afford the time required. These would be the same “leaders” who proudly say that their people are their greatest asset while investing more resources in service contracts for their copiers and computers than they do in developing their people.

As the saying goes, “follow the money.” When organizations don’t invest dollars in their people it makes it hard to believe that they would invest time. If the organization isn’t investing time in people development then it’s almost certain that the leader isn’t either.

If you’re a leader who wants to build more leaders then first you must understand that you can’t and should not try to lead through them. You provide leadership to them and give them the opportunity to lead others. You need to help them develop their own leadership skills and let their leadership flow through the organization.

If you’re interested in building future leaders then be a bit unreasonable. No one gets stronger by lifting the weight they are comfortable lifting. Build leaders by challenging them with seemingly unreasonable goals; goals they cannot accomplish on their own. This will encourage them to rally other people to the cause. It will likely require innovation, planning, diligence, patience, people skills, and most of all, leadership.

They will need to set direction, and coach others towards success, they will need to develop their own team of leaders. If you give all your future leaders goals you’re certain they should, can, and will achieve then you’re treating them like a follower, not a leader. Remember, making a diamond requires pressure, a raw leader who is never pressured is likely to remain just a raw, and weak, leader.

Avoid “over-coaching” your future leaders. Set clear, measurable objectives and let them run. If they need and willingly accept coaching all the time they are probably not future leaders. Leaders like coaching when they ask for it and need it; only followers want and accept coaching all the time.

Help them to believe in themselves and you’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish. Their results will be uncommon and you will have passed the ultimate test of leadership; you’ll have developed your organization’s next generation of leaders.

When Things Really Matter

In a Major League Baseball season there are 162 regular season games. Pretty much every team will win 60 and every team will lose 60. It’s what happens in the other 42 that matters. It’s knowing which 42 games will make the difference that really matters.

The most effective leaders know that not every decision is life, or business changing. What makes them effective is knowing which ones may be and which one most definitely are. The most effective leaders know which 42 games they MUST win.

They know that when they are in the middle of one of those “must wins” that they must lead, most likely from the front. They are less likely to delegate and more likely to micro-manage. Actually effective leaders wouldn’t admit to micro-managing, they are in a “must win” situation and they are just “making sure.”

But what exactly is so critically urgent that an effective leader wouldn’t dare delegate it? Not much as it turns out should be so urgent that it can’t be delegated… or just eliminated.

A long time ago I was promoted to my first management position as Sales Manager for a soda pop company. Not too long after that promotion I received a 4:00am phone call that our delivery drivers had just gone out on strike and everyone in management had to come in immediately.

Shortly after that I had this neat new uniform and a spot on a truck delivering pop to grocery stores and bars. I wasn’t meant for that kind of work to begin with but I was really unprepared to do that all day and then my real job at night.

A short day was 18 hours and even with that I fell behind. I lived in my office for several weeks and still I fell further behind. My desk was a sea of paper stacked several inches high.

I was overwhelmed.

One morning about 2:00am I went into the warehouse and grabbed one of those big trash dumpsters on wheels. I pushed it to my office and threw every piece of paper on my desk away.
A few hours later as my colleagues begin passing my office they would all look at my desk in amazement with the same question; What happened?

I said only that I had a very productive night.

Here’s the truly amazing part, with the exception of a couple of documents that needed signing I never heard a word about anything I had thrown away. Not a word.

It was then that I realized this leadership truth: never underestimate the absolute unimportance of almost everything you do. Most of the things we stress over just don’t really matter. There are few things in life that are truly important and we miss too many of them by focusing on the stuff that isn’t important. We fall victim to the “urgent curse,” doing what seems to be urgent rather than doing the truly important.

We try to focus on too much and forget that “over focusing” is like wearing Milk Bone underwear in a dog eat dog world. We’re going to be eaten alive and it ain’t going to be pretty.

Successful leaders don’t mistake the urgent for the truly important.

As a leader you should not be doing anything that someone else on your team could be doing. If you’re doing anything that someone else could do then your not doing something that only you can. You, I’m sorry to say, are holding back productivity in every direction.

You have 120 games that are going to happen with you or without you. Some will be won and some will be lost and it won’t really matter.

It’s in those 120 games that you build your future leaders. Those are the times that hold the decisions you allow others to make. Those are the times when you just get out of the way and let other leaders stretch their leadership wings. The outcome won’t matter much. What will matter is that THEIR actions and decisions led to an outcome. They can see the results of THEIR decisions and learn from them.

When their day comes to lead the way in the “must win” 42 games you will have prepared them to succeed.

That’s Leadership!