Fear School

Early in my career selling training programs I made a call on one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. I was selling a variety of training programs but the one I was focused on during this call was Leadership Training. 

I asked how the company was currently developing their leadership teams and they said they were in kind of a gap period. In fact it had been awhile since they offered any formal training to their leadership team. 

We talked about what they had done in the past and they told me that all new managers were required to attend what they called “Fear School.” It was management training designed to help the new manager understand how to put the fear of God into their people. They had used their Fear School program for literally decades. They were now struggling with turnover and recruiting issues so they thought perhaps another approach might be in order. 

You may think that putting fear into the minds of people is an ineffective way to get them to do things. You would be wrong. It is very effective…just not for very long. Putting fear into people makes them compliant. They do what they are told because they fear the consequences of not doing it. 

They do it but they seldom do it well. They seldom do more than the minimum required to avoid the consequences. Compliant employees are very expensive for a company because they are not engaged with the goals or vision of the organization. They take up space and add little value beyond what the fear-mongering boss can force out of them. 

Compliant employees use their job description as a shield to deflect requests to do anything that might appear to be extra work. 

It is unlikely that any company still offers “Fear School” to their new managers. Many new managers however operate as if they passed the class with flying colors. They settle for the compliance of their people rather than working to earn their commitment. 

Authentic Leaders work daily to earn the commitment of their people. While compliant people are working to get out of work, committed employees are working to constantly improve both their organizations and themselves. They add value anyway they can. 

Some people will tell you that there is no difference between managing people and leading people. They say it’s all semantics. Those people would be mistaken. They would also be the managers most likely to settle for compliance. 

If you want to determine if someone is trying to manage people or if they are an Authentic Leader it’s actually pretty easy. Just look at the people they are responsible for leading. If the people are committed they are being led. If they are sleep walking through their day they are being managed. 

Here’s the sad part of all that. Every employee wants to be engaged. Every person wants to make a difference. Every person wants to enjoy their work. Every person can be an engaged and contributing employee. Every person wants effective and Authentic Leadership. 

Not every person in a leadership position wants to help their people have those things. They are “lazy leaders” who settle for compliance when they could have so much more. 

That’s a shame on many levels but especially for the people who lack the leadership they need.

Promises and Commitments

Is there a difference between a promise and a commitment? The short answer to that question is YES!

I’m reminded of the story of the guy who sat down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs. There were two animals involved in the production of that breakfast. The first one was a chicken who made the promise of a great tasting breakfast. The second was a pig. The pig made an absolute commitment to a fantastic breakfast. 

I am surprised, disappointed really, at how some people make promises with no real intention of keeping them. Even though they are in the minority too many people make promises and then quickly forget about them. 

That’s why Authentic Leaders don’t make promises. They make commitments. Commitments seem to carry a great deal more emotional “weight” than a mere promise. I might be naive but I think most people have the best of intentions when they make a promise. When they make a commitment however it goes beyond good intentions. Often way beyond.

I try to never ask anyone for a promise. I try to never put someone in a position where they feel the need to offer one either. But I will ask team members, colleagues and anyone I’m mentoring for a commitment. I don’t do that for my benefit, I do it for theirs.

More people honor commitments than honor promises. Especially to themselves. If you want to lose weight then stop promising yourself that you’re going to start tomorrow. Make a commitment to begin today. A sign that you’ve made a commitment rather than a mere promise is that you’ve also carved out time in your schedule to honor it. 

While a promise can quickly slip into the “afterthought” area of your brain commitments tend to remain top of mind much longer. They kind of peck away at your consciousness until they are honored. 

I feel bad when I break a promise but I, like most people, get over it rather quickly. The very few times I have failed to honor a commitment I feel terrible, for a very long time. 

If you think the difference between a promise and a commitment is semantics then stop making promises and start making commitments. Especially to yourself. You WILL see and feel a difference and you’ll accomplish more than you knew you could. 

You’ll gain greater respect from your peers, your friends and most importantly, your family. 

Promises are nice but they are as easy to break as they are to make. Commitments mean more and are more likely to happen as a result. 

Whether or not you enjoyed your breakfast doesn’t matter to the chicken. They are going to lay another egg tomorrow either way. The pig however gave (well maybe not gave) their life in pursuit of a perfect piece of bacon for you. If that’s not commitment I don’t know what it could be.

People with good intentions make promises. People of good character make commitments. Which person are you?

Don’t Start Unless You Have a Plan to Finish

Starting a new project or task is easy…at least when compared to finishing it. I think the vast majority of people start a project or task with the full intention of finishing it. The problem is that the road to failure is paved with those full intentions. 

You don’t need any intention of finishing what you start if you have a plan to finish it before you start.

Step one in that plan should be a decision. The decision that no matter what, the project or task will be completed. If you’ve begun looking for excuses to delay the completion of something you started do not allow yourself to start anything else until what you’re working on is complete. The longer your list of things “in process” the harder it will be to complete any of them. 

Don’t be afraid of saying NO when someone asks you to start something new. Don’t be worried about saying NO to someone who asks for your help if you already have 12 balls in the air you’re trying to juggle. 

Remember, “NO” is a complete sentence. No explanation should be required.

The plan should include what actions you will take each day to move closer to the completion of your task. Even a huge task can be divided up into doable daily tasks. If you can only afford 15-30 minutes a day towards a task you are still making progress and building momentum towards completion. 

Be sure to block that time in your calendar and neither take or make any excuses for using that time for something else. 

Be sure your first 15-30 minute block of time begins immediately. Not tomorrow, not next week, begin immediately. If you’re not sure what I mean by immediately I mean begin in the second after you have made your plan. 

Add a completion date to your plan. You need to be realistic here. You can’t allow yourself 53 years to complete a task that should take a couple of weeks of focused effort. Put a “drop dead” date on your calendar and complete the task by that date. If you don’t then that task is likely as dead as your chances of success. 

Share your plan and progress with a mentor or an accountability partner. Nothing is more helpful in completing a difficult assignment or task as having someone hold you accountable for the commitment you’ve made to get it done. 

You must know that you have the ability to finish what you start. You can create within you the discipline required to do it. You can have tremendous success in all areas of your life as a result. 

The one question that only you can answer is….will you?

Are You Committed or Compliant?

The difference between a committed person and a compliant person is like the difference between night and day. It’s huge!

 

A committed person carries an attitude that helps them drive towards their goals. A committed individual acts with purpose for a purpose. Not only do they have goals they also have a plan to achieve them. Their commitment to themselves, the people they care about and to their organization or business shows in everything they do. 

 

Committed people look different. They act different. They speak differently than most people and they tend to brighten every room they enter. 

 

Compliant people are easy to spot too. They are doing what they are supposed to do and not much more. They live in the zone of “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. They may think they have goals but often those goals only deal with “getting through the day” or “doing what I have to do to keep the boss happy.” 

 

You know how when you’re at the grocery store and there are two check out lines to chose from. You pick one and after a few minutes you realize you picked wrong. The other line is flying and your line is barely moving. The other line likely has a committed cashier and your cashier is the compliant one. They are doing the same job, they are just doing it with very different attitudes. 

 

Think about how unhappy you are when you’re dealing with a compliant person. Then think about which cashier most closely resembles you and your attitude. 

 

Your level of commitment is directly related to your attitude. Your attitude cannot be left to chance, it must be made by choice. Failing to consciously choose a positive attitude results in the unconscious choice of a negative one. 

 

There are no neutral attitudes. If your attitude isn’t positive then it is negative. There is too much negativity around everyone to assume that positivity just happens. It does not, you MUST choose it and then work to keep it. 

 

Being that slow cashier is the likely result of failing to chose. The best news is that no one, no circumstance, no traffic, no weather report, no nothing nothing nothing, can rob you of that choice. 


So… what are you choosing today?

Where Success Comes From

Success comes from commitment. 100% commitment. 

Yoda said it best, there is no try, there is do or do not but there is no try. Committed people don’t try, they do. When they fail they take stock of the causes of the failure, learn what they can, make a new, better plan and try again. 

I’ve often heard that relationships are a 50-50 deal. If you do your part and the other person does their part then it should all work out. That might sound good but when was the last time anything worked out when someone give it a 50% effort. 50% effort doesn’t get it done, it doesn’t get anything done.

Successful relationships require a 100-100 commitment. When both sides of a relationship are 100% committed to it’s success then you have a real chance at success.

It’s like that in every part of life, business, sports, achieving goals, your own health, whatever the case may be anything less than a 100% commitment makes you vulnerable to failure. 

Success comes from commitment, a commitment to do. The best of intentions and the best thought out plans mean nothing without a commitment to take action.

Commitment is not easy so don’t be afraid to ask for help to stay committed. Find someone who cares enough about you to hold you accountable for those things you’ve committed to do… or not to do. Ask them to help you stay on course. This is where a coach or mentor can really help. 

Share your commitments broadly, let lots people know about your commitments. Yes, that adds pressure but the pressure of accountability is one of the keys to success in any area of your life.

One of my favorite analogies for commitment is the breakfast analogy…. If you had bacon and eggs for breakfast this morning than two creatures made that possible. A chicken was interested in your breakfast but a pig was committed to it.

People interested in something are often deterred, people committed to something seldom are. 

Are you merely interested in your success or are you committed to it? 

Compliance is not Commitment

No one has every done anything that they didn’t want to do!

Almost everyone would disagree with that statement and everyone who disagrees would be wrong. Almost everyone would say they have been made to do something they didn’t want to do. It could have been by their parents, their boss, maybe a spouse (I hope not a spouse) maybe a friend or co-worker. But the fact is they didn’t really make you do something that you didn’t want to do. 

They found a way to make you want to do it.

They provided you with a choice. Either do this or something bad will happen to you. They made the “something bad” worse than the thing you would have preferred not to do. You considered your options and decided to do the thing you would have preferred not to instead of receiving the “something bad” as an alternative. 

You wouldn’t have normally “wanted” to do the thing you did but it was better than the “something bad” that was the alternative. 

That’s how compliance works. 

Limited leaders think that forcing their people to comply by using the “something bad” alternative makes them a leader. They are dead wrong!

Compliance can appear to work in the short term and it kind of does. A limited leader can have some short-term success by forcing a reasonable level of performance out of their people. But from the very beginning a compliance based leader erodes the trust and morale of their people. Compliance based leaders will always, always have “people issues” because people just aren’t made to be compliant. 

The people issues will look like attitude problems, attendance or tardiness problems, productivity problems, and general engagement issues.

When I see those issues and problems happen with more than a small percentage of an organization’s people it is unlikely that the organization has hired a bunch of malcontents, it is far more likely they are trying to force a bunch of good people to comply.

That’s a leadership issue. 

Authentic Servant Leaders do not need the compliance of their people because they have earned their commitment.  

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that earning the commitment of their people is a whole lot of work but they also understand that the payback can be huge. Most of their “people issues” disappear. While compliant people will eventually, kind of, sort of, get the job done a committed person will get the job done better and faster. The enthusiasm of committed people extends beyond an organization’s walls, infecting customers and other stakeholders with a sense of being part of something worthwhile. 

Committed people will outperform compliant people in virtually every way and in virtually every circumstance. 

If you’re going to excel as a leader you must absolutely understand that compliance is not the same as commitment. If you’re struggling with consistent people issues it is very likely that you are trying to lead by compliance. That just doesn’t work long-term, it never has and I find it hard to believe that it ever will.

So you’ll need to change your leadership style to earn the commitment of your people. Remember, you’re the LEADER, if you aren’t committed to change first then don’t expect any changes from your people.

Controlling Leadership

One of the biggest leadership myths around is the myth about leadership control. If you buy into the control myth then you likely believe that once you have a position of leadership you will also have substantially more control over people, things, and circumstances than you did before.

You might have a little more but not much and not often.

I see new leaders all the time trying to over control people and situations and it’s almost always a mistake. New leaders try to get their people to think like them, to act like them and to do most everything just like them. They try to exercise their “authority” over their people and they end up with compliant people but not committed ones. 

New leaders (okay, there are a lot of experienced leaders who think this too) believe their people have to do what they are told in the way that they were told to do it. (by the way, they don’t, they merely have to pretend to) They never even try to get their people committed because they are so fascinated with their newfound ability to make people comply. 

They frequently mistake compliance for control. So new leaders tend to make their plans believing that they control much more than they actually do. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

I might add that no business plan survives contact with the competition and no personal plan survives contact with other people.

When your plan meets the real world, the real world wins. Very little goes totally as planned. Errors pile up. Mistaken suppositions come back to bite you. The most brilliant plan loses touch with reality. Because complete leadership control is a myth.

The only thing that a leader can truly control is how they react to the uncontrollable. 

When the uncontrollable and unforeseen events happen do you as a leader calm the storm or add to the turbulence? Do you provide hope to the hopeless or are you hopelessly negative? Are you the model of flexibility and perseverance or do you dither in the comfort of your office?

Are you an Authentic Leader or just someone with a fancy title and position? 

If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to boss your way to compliance and start showing that you trust, understand, and care about your people enough to earn their commitment. If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to control your people and start encouraging and influencing them to commit. 

Controlled people get the job done…barely. Committed people get the job done well, quickly, and completely. People resist control and respond to leadership. 

Authentic Leaders don’t buy into the control myth!